Problems of Nutrition: What is Your Right Nourishment?

“Diet, through spiritual development, becomes the personal problem of the thinking individual. In conscious awareness he comes to measure his nutritional requirements against the background of his inner spiritual activity. In response, he satisfies his nutritional needs with a conscious surety as positive in its way as the instinctive ability of laboratory rats to choose in their way the right food.” - Gilbert Church, Ph.D., New York City, June 2, 1968

Problems of Nutrition

“ When we as spiritual scientists consider our organism, we can ask ourselves if we do not make our bodies unfit for the execution of the intentions, aspirations and impulses of our lives if we become bound by and dependent upon our bodies through an unsuitable diet. Is it not possible to mold the body in such fashion that it turns into a progressively more suitable instrument for the impulses of our spiritual life? Will we lose our freedom and become dependent upon our bodies if we ignore what is the right nourishment for us? What must we eat so that we are not merely the product of what we eat?” Rudolf Steiner, Munich, January 8, 1909

In the past I have spoken here on a variety of subjects concerning spiritual life. It may be permissible today, therefore, for me to touch upon a more prosaic theme from the standpoint of spiritual science. Problems of nutrition undoubtedly offer a more mundane subject than many we have heard here. It will be seen, however, that particularly in our age spiritual science has something to say even concerning questions that directly affect everyday life.

On the one hand, spiritual science stands accused, by those who know it only from the outside, of aspiring too loftily to spiritual realms, thus losing the firm round under its feet. On the other hand, the opposite can perhaps also be heard again from those who have become acquainted with spiritual science or anthroposophy through only a single lecture or brochure. This consists in the statement that anthroposophists are entirely too concerned with, and talk too much about, questions of what they should eat and drink. In some respects these critics might well be called idealists in that they believe they view the common aspects of life from a certain exalted level. They raise this objection particularly by taking a stand that can be expressed in the following way.

“What man eats and drinks is unimportant. It does not matter what food one takes, rather must one rise above the material dimension by the strength of ones spirit.”

Even a well-intentioned idealist might level this objection against anthroposophists. Well, at a time when these questions are being widely discussed from other angles, it might be interesting to hear what spiritual science has to say about them. It was a German philosopher, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, to whom the phrase, “A man is what he eats,” is attributed. Many thinkers of consequence have agreed with Feuerbach that what man produces is basically the result of foods ingested by him and his actions are influenced by the food absorbed in a purely materialistic way through his digestion. With so much discussion of eating going on, somebody might get it into his head to believe that man is indeed physically nothing more than what he eats. Now, we shall have several things to say on this point. We must understand each other precisely as to the purpose of todays lecture and the intention behind it. We are not agitating in favor of particular tendencies, nor are we trying to be reformative. The spiritual scientist is obliged to state the truth of things. His attitude must never be agitatorial, and he must be confident that when a person has perceived the truth of what he says, he will then proceed to do the right thing. What I have to say, therefore, does not recommend one course as opposed to another, and he who assumes that it does will misunderstand it completely. Merely the facts will be stated, and you will have understood me correctly if you realize that I am not speaking for or against anything. Bearing this in mind, we can raise the question from the standpoint of spiritual science as to whether the statement, “A man is what he eats,” does not have a certain justification after all.

We must continually bear in mind that the body of man is the tool of the spirit. In discussing the various functions the body has to perform, we see that man utilizes it as a physical instrument. An instrument is useless if it is not adjusted correctly so that it functions in an orderly manner, however, and similarly our bodies are of no use to our higher organism if they do not function properly. Our freedom can be handicapped and intentions impeded. When we as spiritual scientists consider our organism, we can ask ourselves if we do not make our bodies unfit for the execution of the intentions, aspirations and impulses of our lives if we become bound by and dependent upon our bodies through an unsuitable diet. Is it not possible to mold the body in such fashion that it turns into a progressively more suitable instrument for the impulses of our spiritual life? Will we lose our freedom and become dependent upon our bodies if we ignore what is the right nourishment for us? What must we eat so that we are not merely the product of what we eat? By asking such questions, we come to look at the problem of nutrition from another perspective. You all know, and I only need allude to this generally familiar fact, that speaking purely materialistically, people continuously use up the substances that their organisms store and they therefore must take care to replenish them with further nourishment. Men must concern themselves with replenishment. What, then, could be more obvious than to examine those substances that are necessary for the human organism, that is, to find out what substances build up the animalistic organism, and then simply see to it that the organism is given them. This approach, however, remains an extremely materialistic one. We must rather ask ourselves what the essential task of a man food is and in what way it is actually utilized in his organism.

Fellowship and Community Building

It is certainly clear to anybody who keeps up with the way civilization and culture are presently developing that the times themselves demand the deepening of knowledge, the ethical practice, the inner religious life that anthroposophy has to offer. On the other hand, however, a society such as ours has to act as a vanguard in an ever wider disseminating of those elements that are so needed under the conditions that prevail today. - Rudolf Steiner, Awakening to Community, SteinerBooks / Anthroposophic Press

I visited a special place this week, The Fellowship Community, An Inter-Generational Care Community, settled on 80 acres of farm and forest, 90 minutes north of New York City. The Fellowship Community serves the needs of elder members through the phases of aging. A place like no other I have experienced. The warmth of the community cuts through the winter temperatures and leaves you with a sense that this experience has changed you in some way.

The members of this community, including our dear friends at Mercury Press, are there to support their fellow community members in an aging process that is not only dignified but energized by the spirit of everyone you meet. My only wish is that all Americans could experience their final days on this earth in a place that celebrates this transformation and the journey ahead.

Today, I am sharing Rudolf Steiner’s lecture, Awakening to Community, in the hopes that you all can find ways to bring care and celebration to those in your community who need your fellowship. - Kathy Donchak

If this anthroposophical life is to develop in a practical direction, everything it undertakes must be born of fearless knowledge and a really strong will. This presupposes learning to live with the world in a truly anthroposophical way. People used to learn to live anthroposophically by fleeing the world. But they will have to learn to live anthroposophically with the world and to carry the anthroposophical impulse into everyday life and practice.
— Rudolf Steiner

What Forces are at Work in Waldorf Education?

All our methods, all our ingenious, formed, outer methods of education, are of little value in this respect. Answers to the question —how can this or that be achieved? — are of little use. What is of the greatest importance, however, is for a person to have enthusiasm in his work and to be able to develop this enthusiasm to the full if he is to be a true teacher. This enthusiasm is infectious, and it alone can work miracles in education. The child eagerly responds to enthusiasm, and, when there is no response on his part, it usually indicates a lack of this enthusiasm in the teacher. - Rudolf Steiner

Forces Leading to Health and Illness in Education

We can say, of course, that the outer life within which human beings stand, making it possible for them to earn a living, requires them to have capacities that they cannot have yet as children. We must impart such capacities to them. The behavior proper for adults is also, perhaps, something that the child cannot acquire by himself; it must be imparted to him through education. - Rudolf Steiner

This weekend, I am fortunate to witness the burning fire of education, as I meet early childhood teachers from around the country at the WECAN Early Childhood Educators Conference. As I watched a workshop led by Dr. Adam Blanning, I could see this infectious enthusiasm that Steiner spoke about, the great humility of the task of a teacher and physician, and the experience of a former Waldorf student as he now stood as the teacher of teachers.

This is the magic I have witnessed within the Waldorf education community, a place that nurtures the enthusiasm and love for children and the reserved task of education. As we share lectures and books each Sunday on this blog, it is my hope that it will invite you into this magical world of education that has as its focus a reverence for what it means to be human. A place where human development and the nurturing of each soul is of the highest importance.

As I spoke to Dr. Blanning after his workshop, he shared that as a child in a Waldorf school it was this underlying intention that energized his schooling years. As you read the complete lecture take time to sit with it and take it into your work with children as a neighbor, community member, or family member. Our world’s children need us to share our gifts with enthusiasm to kindle their own light for the world. - Kathy Donchak

Forces Leading to Health and Illness in Education by Rudolf Steiner

The Task of Education is Connected with the Development of Humanity

Now that I am at the beginning of what I actually want to dis-

cuss about education, you can see that I do not wish to begin

with some theoretical discussion, but rather with a feeling. We

cannot begin with a pedagogy of rules, but with a feeling. We

must feel that the content of the human soul has been given to

those who are to teach and educate young people. It is healthy to

feel within ourselves the future of humanity. That is the proper

starting point, not whether we know one thing or another, but

when we feel that the entire task of education is connected with

the development of humanity. - Rudolf Steiner

The beauty of the educational ideals espoused by Rudolf Steiner can be seen in his reverence for human development. He crafted his lectures and shared his indications for an educational model that is responsive to the needs of children and the world in which they live.

As I read Steiner’s lectures, I am encouraged to read and then think about how those words can change the way I feel about the children I am guiding as a parent. It must begin with the sense of feeling if we are to support the development of future generations. I encourage you as teachers, parents, grandparents, and community members to read Steiner’s words on education and then allow them to transform your individual gifts as a guiding force in your communities.

Kathy Donchak


Rudolf Steiner

Basel, April 23, 1920

Everything depends upon your working inwardly with what such books or lectures offer as a thread. - Rudolf Steiner

Up to now I have tried to show how we can approach the human being from the outside. Today I would like to approach our task from the other side, from the side of inner experience. Through this way of considering things—the way of science in the future—the human being becomes transparent from the outside. In a sense, this kind of consideration of the human being, of the activities of the organs and all of human nature, can lead us to discover a person’s inner experiences, what he or she experiences as thinking, feeling, and willing. The commonly held perspective confronts us with a dark, impenetrable, incomprehensible being.

At the same time, we are concerned with more or less abstract inner experiences of thinking, feeling, and willing that we cannot perceive or feel concretely. We have seen that the human being has three aspects: thinking, feeling, and willing. Let us look at these three aspects from within. We will soon see how the inner and outer paths of consideration are connected. The content of thoughts is essentially very abstract. As teachers, we cannot approach the developing human being through these thoughts. In a certain sense, there is an impenetrable wall between us. That wall exists in social life and brings us many social problems. It also exists in areas such as teaching and education.

Through the scientific materialism that has taken over all our thinking and, to an extent, our feeling, everything we have to say about the soul or spirit has slowly become empty words. We cannot work out of empty words. We can find no relationship to other adults through empty words, nor can we find a relationship to children through them. We need to move forward to reality. We cannot encounter reality if we have only the abstract intellectual reasoning that modern science has implanted in us. We do, however, come to the spirit through this reasoning. The entire content of reasoning within our intellectually oriented education is spirit, but it is a filtered spirit. It is a spirit that in a way cannot break out of its own confines, which cannot experience itself as real content, and thus remains brutal. This spirit controls our lives. This spirit penetrates nothing; it is a spirit that in art creates only the external form instead of developing the form out of the material itself. It is a spirit that wants to force itself upon the external social relationships connected with the shape of human society instead of developing those relationships directly from living human beings. We can arrive at a very different position in regard to the spirit if we hold to what spiritual science can give us. The way spiritual science approaches things is much more important than its actual content. If you stay with what is knowledge today, you will find that it simply reflects what already exists. That is how we have arrived at a kind of naturalism that only recreates the external world in art, because our understanding does not penetrate beyond the external world; it has no independent content. We move about in a mere copy of the external world. We do not understand how living content can germinate from the human being, since this living content cannot arise from anything other than the spirit. Let us contrast spiritual science and conventional science. When they first hear what spiritual science has to say, many modern people understand it as something silly, a fantasy. Why? Simply because people are not accustomed to hearing in the way that spiritual science speaks. People are accustomed to speaking about the world so that it is possible to compare what is said with what we see, with what the eyes perceive or we perceive in other ways.

Spiritual science presents things to which we cannot find any correspondence in the external world, things we cannot find when we observe only with our senses. It presents things we can understand only when we work out of our own spirit. Of course, what we create comes from a deeper aspect of the world, but we must actually produce that out of the spirit. This creation out of the spirit is important. When we study spiritual science, we do not wait until we encounter a tree or an animal that we can then conceptualize. Instead we form the concept in our inner life. In a moment, we will see some examples of how we create concepts inwardly through spiritual science and how they can become alive in the human being. We can therefore say that our intellectual reasoning has slowly lost all meaning, and that spiritual science gives our reasoning something through which it can regain some content. If you take my book An Outline of Esoteric Science and read it like any other book, you may not understand it. Today, even with art, we ask ourselves where in the world we would find something like it. In dramas and novels, that is, in products of our imagination, we demand that their content can be found in exactly, or nearly exactly, the same way as in the world. You cannot do that with the content of Esoteric Science. You have to do something else, which is why there is so much opposition to spiritual science: people must do something quite different than in modern conventional science or art. You need to carry out an inner activity for each step described by the writer of such a spiritual scientific book. You will gain nothing from reading such a book if you do not produce something from yourself according to the directions in the book. In this way spiritual science runs quite counter to our modern way of thinking. Today people love to attend lectures that present what they are to learn through slides or other perceptible means. People go to movies because they can see something there. They do not value the fact that there are also some words. People want to remain passive; they just want to be people who watch. You will gain nothing from a spiritual-scientific book or lecture if you allow these modern habits to predominate, as spiritual scientific lectures or books contain nothing of that sort. Everything depends upon your working inwardly with what such books or lectures offer as a thread.

Education and the Moral Life

Today we have anthropology and we have psychology.

Anthropology’s main concern is the abstract observation of the

physical aspect of the human being, while that of psychology

is the abstract observation of the human soul and spirit as

entities separate from the physical body. What is missing is the

anthroposophical perspective, which observes the human

being—body, soul, and spirit—as a unity; a point of view that

shows everywhere how and where spirit is flowing into matter,

sending its forces into material counterparts.

- Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy Part 2

Education and the Moral Life

Rudolf Steiner


Everyone involved to any degree at all in social life will certainly feel that the moral aspect is one of the most important aspects in the entire field of education. At the same time, one realizes that it is precisely this aspect that is the most subtle and difficult one to handle, for it relates to the most intimate area of education.

I have already emphasized that educational practice needs to be built on real knowledge of, and insight into, the human being. The comprehension, perception and observation that I tried to characterize last night will give the knowledge necessary to train the child’s cognitional capacities. Practically speaking, knowledge of the human being, supported by the science of the spirit, will enable one to reach, more or less easily, the child’s powers of cognition. One will be able to find one’s way to the child. If, on the other hand, one wishes to appeal to a child’s artistic receptivity as described yesterday, which is equally important, it is necessary to find a way to each child individually, to have a sense for the way various children express themselves from an artistic comprehension of the world. When it comes to moral education, all of one’s skill for sensitive observation and all of one’s intimate psychological interest must be kept in mind, so that all the teacher’s knowledge of the human being and of nature can be put at the service of what each child brings forth individually. To reach children in a moral way, the only choice is to approach each child on an individual basis. However, with regard to moral education, yet another difficulty has to be overcome—that is, an individual’s sense of morality can only be appealed to through full inner freedom and with full inner cooperation.

This requires that educators approach moral teaching so that, when later in life the students have passed the age of formal education, they can feel free as individuals in every respect. What teachers must never do is to pass on to developing students the relics of their own brand of morality or anything derived from personal sympathies or antipathies in the moral realm. We must not be tempted to give our own ethical codes to young people as they make their way into life, since these will leave them unfree when it becomes necessary that they find their own moral impulses. We must respect and acknowledge the young person’s complete inner freedom, particularly in the realm of moral education. Such respect and tolerance truly demand a great deal of selflessness from educators, and a renunciation of any self-interest. Nor is there, as is the case in all other subject matters, the opportunity of treating morality as a subject in its own right; as such, it would be very unfruitful. The moral element must be allowed to pervade all of one’s teaching.

Rethinking Economics: Lectures and Seminars on World Economics (CW 340-341)

Today I intend a kind of introduction. In tomorrow’s lecture, we shall begin to try to give a more or less complete picture of the questions of social and political economy that humanity today must set before itself.

The subject of economics, as we speak of it today, is in reality a very recent creation. It did not arise until the time when the economic life of modern peoples had become extraordinarily complicated in comparison with earlier conditions. As this course is intended primarily for students of political economy,† it is necessary by way of introduction to point out this peculiarity of the economic thinking of today.

After all, we need not go very far back in history to see how much economic life has changed, even during the nineteenth century. We need only consider this one fact: England, for example, already had during the first half of the century what was, practically speaking, the modern form of economic life. There was comparatively little radical change in the economic structure of England in the course of the nineteenth century. The great social questions that arise out of economic questions in modern times were being asked in England as early as the first half of the nineteenth century; and those who wanted to think about social and economic questions in the modern sense could pursue their studies in England at a time when in Germany, for instance, such studies would have remained unfruitful. In England, Lecture 1 From Industrialism to World Economy Dornach, July 24, 1922 2 rethinking economics above all, the conditions of trade and commerce on a large scale had already come into being by the first third of the nineteenth century. Through the great development of trade and commerce in the economic life of England, a foundation was already there in the form of trade capital. In England, there was no need to seek for any other starting point for modern economic life. They simply had to go on with the trade capital resulting from the consolidation of trade and commerce, even as early as the first third of the nineteenth century. Starting from this time, everything took place in England with a certain logical consistency; we must not forget that the whole of this English economic life was possible only on the basis originally given by England’s relation to her colonies, especially to India. The whole of the English economic system is unthinkable without the relationship of England to India. In other words, English economic life, with all its facility for evolving large sums of capital, is founded on the fact that there lies in the background a country that is, as it were, virgin economic soil. We must not overlook this fact, especially when we pass from England to Germany.

If you consider the economic life of Germany, you will see that in the first third of the nineteenth century it still essentially corresponded to economic customs that had arisen out of the Middle Ages. The economic customs and relationships within Germany in the first third of the nineteenth century were absolutely old: consequently the whole pace of economic life was different in Germany from what it was in England during the first third, or even the first half, of the nineteenth century. In England, during the first half of the century, there was already what we may call a reckoning with quickly changing habits of life. The main character of economic life remained essentially the same, but it was already adaptable to quickly changing habits. In Germany, on the other hand, habits of life were still conservative: economic development could afford to advance at a snail’s pace, for it had to adapt itself only to technical conditions that had remained more or less the same over long periods, and to human needs that were not rapidly changing. But in this respect a great transformation took place in the second third of the nineteenth century. Then there rapidly took place an The Transition from Industrialism to World Economy approximation to English conditions: a development of the industrial system. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Germany had been in all essentials an agrarian country—now it was rapidly transformed into an industrial country, far more rapidly than any other region of the earth. But there is an important fact in this connection. We might describe it thus: In England the transition to industrial life took place instinctively; nobody knew exactly how it happened. It came as a natural event. In Germany, it is true, the medieval character still existed in the first third of the nineteenth century. Germany was an agrarian country. But while the outer economic conditions were taking their accustomed course in a way that might almost be called medieval, human thinking was undergoing a fundamental change. It came into the consciousness of human beings that something altogether different must now arise, that the existing conditions were no longer appropriate for the time. Thus the transformation of economic conditions that arose in Germany in the second third of the nineteenth century took place far more consciously than in England. In Germany, people were far more aware of how they entered into modern capitalism; in England, people were not aware of it at all. If you read today all the writings and discussions in Germany during that period concerning the transition to industrialism, you will get a remarkable impression, a strange impression, of how the people in Germany were thinking. They actually looked upon it as a real liberation of humanity; they called it liberalism, democracy. Moreover, they regarded it as the very salvation of humanity to get right out of the old connections, the old binding links, the old kind of corporation, and pass over to the fully free position (for so they called it) of the individual within the economic life. Hence in England you will never meet with a theory of economics such as was developed by the people who received their education in Germany at the height of the period that I have just characterized. Schmoller, Roscher† and others derived their views from the ideal of this “liberalism” in economics. What they built up was altogether in accord with this ideal, and they built it with full consciousness. The English would have thought such theories of economics stale rethinking economics and boring; they would have thought that one should not trouble to think about such things. Look at the radical difference between the way in which people in England talked about these things (to mention even a man like Beaconsfield, who was theoretical enough in all conscience) from the way in which Richter or Lasker or even Brentano† were speaking in Germany. In Germany, therefore, this second period was entered into with full consciousness. Then came the third period, the period essentially of “the state.” It is true that as the last third of the nineteenth century drew near, the German state was consolidated purely by means of external power. What was consolidated was not what the idealists of 1848, or even of the 1830s and on, had desired; no, it was the state that was consolidated, and moreover by sheer force or power. And this state gradually laid claim to the economic life for its own purposes, with full consciousness. Thus, in the last third of the nineteenth century, the structure of the economic life was permeated through and through by the very opposite principle as had been in the previous period. In the second third of the century, economic evolution had been subject to the ideas of liberalism. Now its evolution became altogether subject to the idea of the state. This was what gave the economic life in Germany, as a whole, its stamp. It is true that there were elements of consciousness in the whole process, and yet in another sense the whole thing was quite unconscious.

Where are the Initiates?

On one occasion I was prompted to ask him this: “Where, really,

are the ‘initiates’ of humanity committed to furthering work such

as yours?” And he replied, “The important thing now is for people

to grasp higher truths through their thinking.”

Friedrich Rittelmeyer

Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life

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Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature (CW 136)

Rudolf Steiner, Lecture 6 Helsinki, April 8, 1912

In the last lecture we tried to consider how a planetary system depends on the various spiritual beings of the three hierarchies, layered, as it were, one above the other. We gained an idea of all that is involved in a planet, and we saw how a planet receives its enclosed form as a result of the activity of the spirits of form. We also saw that the inner life, the inner mobility of the planet, is the result of the activity of the spirits of motion. What we may call the lowest consciousness of a planet, which can be compared with the consciousness present in the human astral body, we assign to the spirits of wisdom. And the impulse by which a planet changes its place in space we allot to the spirits of will, the thrones. The regulation of the individual movements of a planet—so that instead of taking an isolated course in space, it moves in harmony with the whole system—is an activity of the cherubim. Finally, we ascribed to the seraphim what we may call the inner soul life of a planet, whereby the planet comes into connection with the other heavenly bodies, like a human being enters into relation with other people by means of speech. Thus we must see a sort of coherence in the planet; and in this, what comes from the spirits of form is but a kind of kernel. On the other hand, every planet has something like a spiritual atmosphere—we might even say something like an aura—in which the spirits who belong to both of the higher hierarchies that are above the spirits of form do their work. Now, however, if we want to understand all this rightly, Lecture 6 helsinki, April 8, 1912 66 j spiritual beings in the heavenly bodies we must make ourselves acquainted with yet other ideas than those I have just recapped for you in a couple of sentences. These are ideas that we shall attain most easily if we begin with the beings of the hierarchy that stands, so to speak, nearest to humanity in the spiritual world: namely, the beings of the third hierarchy.

We have said that the characteristic of the beings of the third hierarchy is that what is perception in human beings is manifestation in them; and what is inner life in human beings is being filled with spirit in them. We already find this characteristic in the beings who are immediately above the human being in the cosmic order, in the angels or angeloi: namely, that they actually perceive what they manifest from out of themselves. When they return to their inner being, they have nothing independent, nothing self-enclosed like the inner life of human beings. Rather, they then feel the forces and beings of the higher hierarchies above them shining and springing forth in their inner being. In short, they feel themselves filled and inspired by the spirit, by the beings above them. Thus, what we call our independent inner life really does not exist in them. If they wish to develop their own being and if they wish, so to speak, to feel, think, and will what they are, as a human being does, it is all immediately manifested externally. These beings are not like human beings, who can shut up their thoughts and feelings within themselves and can allow their will impulses to remain unfulfilled. What lives as thought in these beings, insofar as they themselves bring forth these thoughts, is also simultaneously revealed externally. If they do not wish to manifest externally, they have no other means of returning into their inner being than by once again filling themselves with the world above them. Thus, the world above them dwells in the inner life of these beings, and when they live a life of their own, they project themselves externally, objectively.